It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 2 to 16 February, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.
100 BULLETS #88: The Standard Review: Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 12 issues. Sorry to see a minor supporting character, who's actually been around for a long time now, get killed. B+
ABE SAPIEN: THE DROWNING #1: At first, I wasn't terribly enthused about yet another miniseries featuring Abe and what I assumed was further filling-in of the blanks about his backstory. Turns out that isn't the case; guess I should pay closer attention to the solicitation info! Anyway, Mignola's on board for this, and it seems he has loosened up a bit script-wise; he's positively loquacious, as compared to his usual sparsely dialogued scripting, in this account of Abe's first solo adventure. It also features another new character, a 19th Century John Constantine "occult detective" type that seems to bow out early but you should know better. Even though there are the requisite scaly tentacle monsters to contend with, apparently a requirement for Abe stories since it's all supposed to be tied in with, or at least echo, that ongoing pseudo-Lovecraftian extraterrestrial human race-threatening frog monster subplot Mignola's been working since 1994, it's a fast-paced and solid beginning. I'm also liking the art by Jason Shawn Alexander, not to be confused with the actor that was the voice of Duckman- it's a tad on the sloppy side, but in a good way, and reminds a teensy bit of the work of Mike Lark with Steven Guadiano inks, or perhaps a less pretentious Jeff Jones. Another promising Hellboy spinoff, so what else is new. A-
AMERICAN VIRGIN #23: Well, it figures that this series, which danced all around the very issues it promised to illuminate, bucks the trend of the final, and pretty much the best (at least most focused) story arc and concludes with the bane of my existence- the ambiguous ending, quite possibly written so because the writer didn't really know exactly how he wanted to end the thing in the first place and designed to provoke further thought on the matter at hand, but completely unsatisfying from the standpoint of the committed reader who simply wants to witness the resolution of the storyline he or she has invested two years of their life following. Of course, I know that it's difficult to get a cancellation notice, then have to hurriedly wind up narratives that were most likely meant to go on for years to come. And that begs the question- in these turbulent times, when new series come and go at the drop of a hat, even Vertiginous ones, why would a writer plot that far in advance? Anyway, as so often seems to be the case in endeavors that sport her byline, the brightest star of this show was Becky Cloonan, who provided outstanding visuals for the entire run, with a handful of sympathetic inkers. But was it all worth the effort? Who the hell knows? Figure it out for yourself- you'll have the rest of your life to ponder it. B
B.P.R.D.: 1946 #2: Ooh, this one is shaping up nicely. I'm loving Josh Dysart's dialogue; it's terse and lean and to-the-point but never dry and uninvolving. This is a great premise for a supernatural adventure, too- in the wake of World War II, the US and Russian paranormal agencies stumble upon a Nazi-created menace, and it looks like it's going to be up to Professor Bruttenholm, depicted wonderfully, and a demon who chooses to look like a weird, pale young Russian child (Anastasia, perhaps? Or Claudia from the Anne Rice vampire books) that is in charge of the Moscow team to defeat it. Maybe it's just my fascination with early-mid 20th Century Russia, maybe it's just the sheer oddity of Mignola's idea here, but I am enjoying it very much so far. A big part of this mini's success so far is Azaceta, whose moody, Tommy Lee Edwards-like style is letter-perfect. A
FABLES #69: Rather pat finale of the "Good Prince" story arc; everything gets resolved early and conveniently, there's no dramatic tension whatsoever, all the events are treated as a fait accompli, and the satisfactions are left to be small ones- the sweet final scenes, for example. Longtime readers will be left to wonder how the other (wooden) shoe will fall, because surely the Adversary (whom we don't even get to see react to what seems to be a crushing defeat) will not stand for this very long. We don't really have a clue. This is still readable, and as solidly if unspectacularly drawn, as always...but it's just structured oddly, and one gets the feeling that there will be more to come, some Adversarial milkshake drinking perhaps, if you'll excuse the expression. We'll see. B+
IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #5: Tony Stark and Iron Man are such polarizing characters among Marvel readers that I can understand, sort of, why this series hasn't received the attention I think it observes; as someone who couldn't care less about Civil War or its attendant spinoffs, I'm seeing this as a great old-school spin on the original Lee/Heck Tales of Suspense stories, and one with nothing at all to do with the character the way it's written now in what passes for continuity. But this wouldn't be half as good as it is without Eric Canete's loose, but dynamic art- he's created a minor masterpiece here and deserves a bigger showcase to show just what he can do. Oh well, one more issue of this to go (this one's a setup for the climactic Iron Man-Mandarin battle next issue), and then we'll see. Buy the trade, if you're on the fence. A
JACK STAFF #14: This issue sums up, even better than the Special of two weeks ago, what makes Grist's homage/tribute/pastiche such a diverting read. We get more Jack action this time out (yeah, that sounds bad I know), a new villain who yeah, is a Joker copy- but that's what Grist is doing with this series, giving fresh spins and a British slant to familiar characters and presenting it to us via his first-class storytelling skills. Best of all, he brings back the Spider, who grabbed me back when I first started reading Jack and remains a favorite character, especially in the short vignette in which he appears. I'm glad that Grist seems to be back on schedule and committed to it, and this issue is the first of what I think will be an outstanding run. A
NORTHLANDERS #3: Wood's Viking saga continues to unfold at a measured pace; this is well-written- I expect no less from Wood- and nicely illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, whose art often gives me a distinct late-70's Esteban Maroto vibe when I look at it sideways. A major drawback for me, however, is the fact that I still can't warm to any of the characters in this tale, whether they're kinda-good or kinda-bad...and that kinda tempers my enthusiasm a bit. Still, I'm still interested enough in where this is going to continue to buy. B
And there you have it. Gosh, some might say, don't you ever write any negative reviews? Well, I reply, I do, but most of the books I get these days, since I have gradually dropped off the few comp lists I was on at one time, I pay for and I just don't have the cash mon-nay to buy comics I'm not at least interested in. But worry you not- if I buy a comic that sucks, I'll be even more pissed abot it and I'll be sure to pass that vexation on right here in future Spinner Rack Junkie columns. Until then, ta for now!